Both neutralophilic Bacillus subtilis and alkaliphilic Bacillus firmus OF4 depend upon electrogenic Na+/H+ antiporters, which are energized by the gradients established by respiration-coupled proton extrusion, to achieve Na(+)-resistance and pH homeostasis when the external pH is very alkaline. The interplay of proton and sodium cycles is discussed. In B. subtilis, pH homeostasis, up to pH9, can be achieved using K+ when Na+ is unavailable or when the gene encoding the Na+/H+ antiporter that is involved in Na(+)-dependent pH homeostasis is disrupted. That gene is a member of the tetracycline efflux family of genes. A second gene, encoding a Na+/H+ antiporter that functions in Na(+)-resistance, has been identified, and candidates for the K+/H+ antiporter genes are under investigation. Aggregate Na+/H+ antiport activity in B. subtilis is as much as 10 times lower than in the alkaliphile, and the neutralophile cannot regulate its internal pH upon a shift to pH 10.5. Upon such a shift, there is a pronounced reduction in the generation of a primary electrochemical proton gradient. The alkaliphile, by contrast, maintains substantial driving forces and regulates its internal pH in an exclusively Na(+)-coupled manner upon shifts to either pH 8.7 or 10.5. One gene locus has been identified and a second locus has been inferred as encoding relevant antiporter activities.

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